FaithWorld

from India Insight:

Short skirts, bad stars and chow mein: why India’s women get raped

If you thought the Delhi gang rape would cause a serious debate on women’s rights in India, you'd be half right. Let's look at the other half: last December's brutal incident seems to have put a spell on India’s politicians, holy men and otherwise educated people.

From suggesting that the rape victim should have called her rapists “brother” to blaming her stars, plenty of reasons cited for the crime lay the blame on the women whom men brutalise, or portray women in ways that reveal our skewed attitude toward women and their place in our society. When given an opportunity to figure out ways to improve the  education and behaviour of men, and thus try to reduce the  number of rapes that occur in India, many people revert to the  more traditional method: limit the rights of women.

This is a partial list compiled by me and Robert MacMillan. Please suggest more. We'll keep updating this as long as we have to...

UPDATE: BJP Minister from Madhya Pradesh, Babulal Gaur, commenting on a controversy regarding dresses, said "foreign culture" is not good for India. “Women in foreign countries wear jeans and T-shirts, dance with other men and even drink liquor, but that is their culture. It's good for them, but not for India, where only our traditions and culture are OK.” In what looks like an attempt to hedge his bets, he also said, "Let women consider what is good and bad for them." (Business Standard)

Shankaracharya of Puri Swami Nischalananda Saraswati declared western influence responsible for destroying the values and principles of the country. "There is need to change this. Before Independence we were able to maintain our culture and values but in the last 65 years we have lost a great part of it. Such horrific incidents don't happen all of a sudden. They happen when the thin line of culture and values are crossed in the name of civilization and development." (Times of India)

from India Insight:

Photo gallery: From Haridwar to Rishikesh, why you don’t stick to the itinerary

You may be ready with the camera equipment and travel gear, but what if the first sight of your destination doesn't appeal to you? That happened to me when I reached Haridwar. The dirt and grime appalled me, and I wasn't up for an "exotic India" photo op. Worse, the manager of an ashram refused to provide accommodation because I was a single male. The other lodging house guy I spoke to over the phone was equally reluctant and for the same reason.

Walking past the innumerable beggars and the drying Ganga river, I found a spot where a man was resting under a tree.

 

Disgruntled, I hopped into the next autorickshaw and reached Rishikesh, about 20 kilometres from Haridwar. The view cheered me up.

from Photographers' Blog:

Meeting a modern-day Gandhi

Delhi, India

By Mansi Thapliyal

"I am Gandhi!" he says firmly. "His soul resides inside me," he announces, smiling unwaveringly.

I stare blankly at the man who is wearing a dhoti wrapped around his waist, thick black oval glasses and carrying a cane just like Mahatma Gandhi.

GALLERY: MODERN-DAY GANDHI

Two weeks ago, I called this man asking to meet him and he politely told me not to say "hello."

from India Insight:

Woman’s death poses tough abortion questions for India and Ireland

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

The death of a 31-year-old Indian woman in Ireland after doctors refused to give her an abortion has sparked protests in her home country of India as well as in Ireland.

Activists in Ireland said that ending Savita Halappanavar's pregnancy could have saved her life. She died of septicaemia following a miscarriage 17 weeks into her pregnancy. Her family believes that the delay in removing the foetus contributed to the blood poisoning.

from India Insight:

Civics clashes with religion as women face bans from some Indian shrines

(The opinions expressed are the author's own, and may not necessarily reflect those of Thomson Reuters)

Mumbai’s Sufi shrine Haji Ali Dargah Trust has barred women from entering the sanctum that houses the tomb of the Sufi saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari. The reason: authorities said that they saw a woman visit the tomb in inappropriate clothing.

This might not be entirely surprising. The mosque and dargah – or tomb – sit on a tiny island in the waters off Mumbai that is connected to the mainland by a tiny causeway. It is one of Mumbai's most well known tourist attractions, and many people from India and other countries walk past the mendicants and beggars, some of whom are missing limbs and often chanting, on the causeway to admire the architecture and the view.

from India Insight:

Women fast for their men on Karva chauth, but why?

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author. They are not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

Nov. 2 was Karva chauth. I wouldn't have known it if it weren't for the special discounts at stores, the diamond and sari advertisements, and articles wondering whether newlywed actress Kareena Kapoor would fast.

I wouldn't know about the festival were it not for films like Dilwale Dulhaniya le Jayenge or other Yash Chopra and Karan Johar productions.

from John Lloyd:

In India, a press corps searching for its morality

I was in India last week, where I met three frustrated moralists. One was a journalist, an investigator of some distinction (which, to be fair, can be frustrating anywhere). The other two were regulators of the press and broadcasting, respectively. They have little power and thus little influence over what they see as a scandal: the way the media ignore the "real" India – impoverished, suffering, socially divided – in favor of a glossy India that’s little more than the three “C's” – cinema, celebrity and cricket.

Justice Markandey Katju is one of these frustrated regulators. Katju, a former judge of India’s Supreme Court, is chairman of the Press Council of India, which – very loosely – oversees the press. When I told smart Indian journalists that I would see him, they were amused, and many told me he was “mad”. Justice Katju does thunder, but he’s not crazy: He’s an outspoken moralist, and his thundering says something not just about Indian media but also about India.

Calling Katju "outspoken" would fall too short. He hectors and lectures. In fact, Katju does speak with something of the fervor of the Indian governing class of the pre- and post-independence period, when ideals were at least as important as details and mechanisms. “There was a fashion show recently in Mumbai,” he said, “where there were 512 journalists. 512! The models were wearing clothes made of cotton grown by farmers who are committing suicides in their thousands every year! And is that reported? Maybe one reporter will be sent sometimes.

from Photographers' Blog:

The cycle of life and death

By Adnan Abidi

“Ganges is Holy,” said my boatman as I pointed my camera to photograph devotees half submerged in the blackish brown waters of the sacred river, the second most polluted in India. It was my third day on a photography assignment on Bihar- a sprawling state on the Gangetic plains of eastern India. My brief was to cover the overall progress of Bihar, hence I planned to photograph a bridge under construction over this sacred river. After a couple of shots with my wide angle lens I shifted to telephoto and as I zoomed in I saw a crow, a crow savoring or maybe just sitting on a corpse.

The boatman wasn't as shocked as I was. This was no extraordinary sight for him. He continued to praise the progress of the state, and its new efficient minister but said things will not change overnight. On seeing me still shocked about the corpse he revealed that as Hinduism describes Moksha as liberation from the cycle of life and death, freedom forever from earthly miseries and sufferings, the holy river Ganges is believed to be a pathway to attain Moksha. And Hindus believe that dying on the banks of this holy river enable a soul to attain Moksha. So at very short intervals, sometime just weeks, people here see corpses floating on the river, and its an accepted phenomenon. He said that's the way of life here and still there was progress!

I smiled at his optimism. He was all praises about the current government and the development it had brought even though personally he still lived hand-to-mouth. Earning his daily bread was an extreme challenge, for he like many boatmen had no option but to stay in the boat (floating in water) as they could not afford land. Even though there is a lack of basic resources, catastrophic flooding every year, and the lingering impact of poor past governance, there was a ray of hope in Bihar. I wondered if all this progress could bridge the gap between prosperity and poverty- a mammoth task that lay ahead for the current Bihar government.

from Photographers' Blog:

A village of eternal bachelors

By Vivek Prakash

With the world's population set to hit 7 billion on October 31, photographers in India have been on the move to tell stories that talk about what those numbers really mean in a country as large as India - with 1.2 billion people and counting, this is supposed to be the world's largest democracy.

When you take a closer look at the statistics, you find some surprising and scary figures - the ratio of female children to males born actually declined here over the last 10 years - from 933 females for every thousand males in the 2001 census, to just 914 in 2011. The combination of cheap portable ultrasound technology and a decades-old preference for male babies -- who are seen as breadwinners -- has enabled sex-selective abortions and made worse female infanticide. In a place as wide and as vast as India, these are things that are hard to control, no matter how illegal.

We had been trying to find ways to illustrate this for some time without much success - getting access to tell this story had been taking some time. Late last month, a story about a small village in Gujarat was brought to my attention.

Battle intensifies in Kerala for Hindu temple’s $22 billion treasure

(Devotees throng to Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, capital of the southern Indian state of Kerala February 18, 2011/Sivaram)

A $22 billion treasure trove unearthed beneath Kerala’s Padmanabhaswamy Temple has sparked a fierce political and public debate over ownership and how best to put the vast wealth to use. The vaults of the 16th century temple were prised open for the first time in June, since when public calls have grown for redistribution of the wealth to the poor.

Discovered in the vaults were a dazzling stash of gold ornaments, Napoleonic era coins and sacks of gemstones. The archaeological find, one of the greatest ever made in India, has triggered a fierce legal battle for custodianship, pitting the royal family of Travancore, which controls the temple, against the Kerala High Court that has asked the state government to bring the temple under a public trust.